FSU Game - Same Rivalry

Alabama-Auburn just doesn't have the same ring to it. Neither does Ohio State-Michigan. Same goes for UCLA-USC.

All classic college football meetings between some of the most storied programs in NCAA history that have seen some of the parties involved fall upon hard times.

The same sentiments have been expressed about the annual Florida State and Miami faceoff that resumes this Saturday, Oct. 13, at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The 4-0 Hurricanes, currently ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in the AP, struggled in the mid to late 90's to stay afloat as they battled minor probation and scholarship reductions that produced average results on the field, including a 5-6 finish in 1997.

While the Hurricanes attempted to keep their heads above water, Florida State went on a 66-7 run from 1995 through the end of the 2000 season.

During the stretch Florida State has played three times in the national title game, defeating Tennessee in the 1998 Fiesta Bowl to secure their second championship ever (The Seminoles also won the title in 1993 and lost to Oklahoma last January in the No.1-No. 2 Orange Bowl).

Its only been nine months and change since the Seminoles were bested by the Sooners for the national title and already theres been a change of powers.

This season's edition of the Seminoles is loaded-with youth and inexperience. At 3-1, No. 14 Florida State, which comes into a Miami game with their lowest ranking since 1986, has already sufferd a 41-9 setback at North Carolina this season-there third loss ever in the ACC since joining the conference in 1992. Questionable decisions by a freshman quarterback, lack of depth and injuries have all contributed to the Seminoles' wrong doing.

On the other side of the ledger, the Hurricanes have quickly become a popular choice to play in the Rose Bowl after disposing of Rutgers, Pitt and Penn State with ease.

But don't ask University of Miami head coach Larry Coker if the Hurricanes-Seminoles annual tilt is any less meaningful these days or if Florida State has slipped off the map.

He isn't buying into it.

"Regardless of their situation, we have plenty of work ahead of us in Tallahasse and our players understand that. We expect nothing less than a tough fought ballgame," Coker said. "They might be a little younger than the Florida State teams we've faced in the past, but they still have a very fast defense and run to the ball well."

The Seminoles, who are coming off a bye week, have had several weeks to prepare for the Hurricanes. Despite UM having a 24-20 edge in the all-time series FSU owns six victories in the last 11 meetings against Miami, including the past four games played in Tallahassee.

So, Coker, the Hurricanes offensive coordinator from 1995-2000, and his players have been witnesses to plenty of failure at Doak Campbell Stadium. Although, the first-year coach said the Hurricanes won't resort to any special methods in preparing for the hostile crowd that awaits them.

"Football is such a game of momentum and obviously Florida State will have a comfort level playing at their place," Coker said. "They'll have the crowd behind them, but I don't think that will be a problem for us."

Coker said that the Hurricanes would practice accompanied with crowd decibels, although it isn't something the team hasn't done before in getting ready for an important game. Instead, Coker will rely on the experience of a veteran football team.

"We'll have somthing for the noise and we have to do a good job at that," Coker said. "But it will all come down to playing good football. If we don't do that we're in trouble."

The Hurricanes have outscored their first four opponents of the 175-35. But haven't made too many believers throughout the country. Earlier this week, Miami was dropped from the top-spot to No. 2 in the AP poll largely because of their lack of opposition. This is their first chance all season to open the eyes of some doubters.

"We know there are still people out there that believe in this football team," said Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey."We can't get caught up in all that stuff. All we can do is prepare to play a real good football game against a real good football team. The rest is out of our controls."

The Hurricanes looked far from stellar in a 38-7 Saturday over Troy State. Miami, who admittedly was sluggish and played the first half with little emotion, allowed a significant amount of yardage to the Trojans offense in the first quarter as Troy State took advantage of a slow start by the UM defensive-line and secondary. The Hurricanes rebounded with a strong second half in which they outscored Troy State 21-0.

"I don't think we were looking ahead to Florida State. They jusy caught us off guard a little bit at the beginning," Dorsey said.

Catching the Hurricanes off-guard is the only way many think Florida State has a chance of pulling the upset. The Noles, 10 1/2 early week underdogs to Miami, are expected to come out agressive on both sides of the ball in order to off-set their youth and inexperience compared to the Hurricanes.

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden likes the position of his team heading into the match-up.

"I alway thought that coaches-we rather win all the time-would rather go into a game as an underdog," said Bowden. "Let me give you two sides to it."

"Number one, I rather be better than the other team and be favored. But as far as coaching psychology, if you're an underdog its better-to me. Some coaches might not like that."

Underdog or not, Florida State quarterback Chris Rix will be the focal point of the Noles offense. Rix, a freshman, has shown the signs of greatness that sparked Florida State's recruitment of him. He has also displayed the lack of experience that usually comes with a young player.

In the Seminoles loss to UNC, Rix was sacked three times and was responsible for throwing an interception. He followed that up a week later with 345 yards and three touchdown passes in a victory over Wake Forest. For the season, Rix is 48-of-83 with seven touchdowns.

Ironically, Bowden talked about opening up the offense and letting Rix have more of a free rein within the offense.

"Maybe they'll concentrate harder, maybe try harder," It shouldn't matter, but it might.

Tailback Nick Maddux leads the Seminoles with 259 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries. Split end Javon Walker has been Rix's most reliable target with 13 receptions and 328 yards.

On defense, sophomore Kendyll Pope leads FSU with 43 tackles. Senior rover Abdual Howard has 40 tackles, followed by linebacker Bradley Jennings with 35. A shortage in depth has hindered the Seminoles style if defense early on.

But Coker expects a lot of pressure headed the Hurricanes way.

"Any Mickey Andrews defense is going to come after you," said Coker. "That's what we're preparing for."

Bowden acknowledged that his team might not be as seasoned as those in the past. But doesn't mean they can't rebound in time to rearrange the Hurricane's plans.

"We don't have the depth now we've had in the past. But that's not to say we won't ever have it again," Bowden said. "There are some very talented football players on this team. We just need to grow up and get rid of some of the errors and penalties. Now, can we do that before Miami comes in? That remains to be seen."

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